The Artist & the Country House in the Eighteenth-Century
In eighteenth-century England the status of the artist could hardly be said to be elevated. For example in 1761 the Bristol cleric Josiah Tucker observed that “ a pinmaker was more valuable and useful to a society than a painter like Raphael.” This philistine declaration was severely rebutted by Sir Joshua Reynolds who characterised it as the product of a “very narrow mind.” As Brewer comments, this debate about the subservient nature of artists was linked with the circles of gentry and aristocrats. Artists were mechanicals; they worked with their hands, and they were treated accordingly like the domestic staff who worked in the country houses of the gentry. However, in the decade that Tucker uttered his provocative statement, it was rare for an artist to be employed by a single patron. For example, an aristocratic patron like the Marquess of Rockingham was unsuccessful in attempting to lure the American artist Benjamin West (and future Director of the R.A.) to execute a sequence of decorative paintings at his country seat, Wentworth Woodhouse. West told the Marquess firmly that such a way of working was not the right way for a modern painter to make a living. Another painter, Ozias Humphrey, had connections with Knole House, the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Dorset (Sackvilles) who gave the artist many commissions such as painting miniatures of the famous dancer Signora Bacelli, as well as making copies from this wonderful collection. Humphrey eventually fell out with his patrons and being so “disgusted” he drew up a valuation of everything he had done for the family, sarcastically reckoning it up as £1,400; he held on to the copies he had made for the Sackvilles and the wrangles continued until his dying day. By contrast, the multi-millionaire Reynolds would become friendly with the owners of Knole, but the Director of the R.A. was not in their pay like Humphrey, though they would pay handsomely for portraits by the artist to be hung in their ancestral galleries. The Sackvilles had already purchased Reynold’s first history painting, Count Ugolino and His Children in the Dungeon for 400 guineas, as well as a variety of portraits and fancy pictures.
|Sir Joshua Reynolds, John Frederick Sackville (1745–1799), 3rd Duke of Dorset, KG, 1769, oil on canvas, 244.5 x 153 cm, NT Knole.|
|Sir Joshua Reynolds, Count Ugolino & His Children in the Dungeon, 1773, oil on canvas, 52 x 72 cm, N.T Knole.|
|George Stubbs, Whistlejacket, 1762, oil on canvas, 292 x 2464 cm, National Gallery, London.|
|View of Wentwood Woodhouse, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire.|
|Charles Philips, The Watson- Wentworth and Finch Families, c. 1732, oil on canvas, 100.3 x 124.5 cm, Yale Centre for British Art.|
Petworth: An Outstanding Collection
If one had consulted the Victorian guidebook Murrays in the nineteenth-century, one would have found an assessment of Petworth which has stood to this day: Petworth “is a resort of art pilgrims from all parts of Europe,” though “it cannot be said that the house possesses the slightest architectural attraction.” Petworth is more famous for its art collection than the walls that contain it. The following is a description from the BBC Your Paintings website:
“Petworth House is a great house with an immensely distinguished collection. It is set in a superb location in a ‘Capability’ Brown deer park on the South Downs. The central figures in its creation were Algernon Percy (1602–1668), 10th Earl of Northumberland and Charles (1662–1748), 6th Duke of Somerset, who inherited Petworth by marrying Lady Elizabeth Percy, heir of the last Duke of Northumberland. Later owners included Sir Charles Wyndham (1710–1763), 4th Bt and 2nd Earl of Egremont, and George O’Brien Wyndham (1751–1837), 3rd Earl of Egremont, who was a great patron and collector of Turner, Thomas Phillips and other British artists of his time, and whose mistress and later wife, Elizabeth Iliffe, commissioned pictures from William Blake.”
On this website 317 pictures are listed, many of which are English, Dutch and Flemish though all the major schools are represented. Of the English contingent, Georgian era artists like Reynolds and Gainsborough are in abundance, though there are also nineteenth-century artists like Thomas Phillips and Charles Robert Leslie represented in the collection.
|View of Petworth.|
|Thomas Phillips, George O’Brien Wyndham, third Earl of Egremont, c. 1813-, oil on canvas, 187 x 185 cm, NT, Petworth House.|
|The North Gallery today with Flaxman group.|
|John Hoppner, Sleeping Venus & Cupid, 1806, oil on canvas, 132 x 168 cm, N.T. Petworth House.|
|Charles Robert Leslie, The Carved Room, Petworth House, c. 1856, oil on board, 352 x 300 mm, Tate Gallery, London.|
Arrivals & Departures at Petworth.
Just as Sir Joshua would be linked with Knole, Turner would be associated with Petworth, though more conspicuously. J.M.W. Turner was friends with George O’Brien Wyndham, third Earl of Egremont, who inherited Petworth at the age of twelve. Educated at Westminster and on the Grand Tour, Wyndham seems to have formed his taste on conventions of eighteenth-century aesthetics and painting. Turner first saw the collection at Petworth in 1794, and much of this art would have been transferred to Petworth after the sale of Egremont House in Piccadilly, a weeding out exercise. Under the hammer went a number of mainly seventeenth-century Italian and Dutch paintings, but the low sales prices indicate no significant works were sold. However, in 1927 fourteen important paintings were sold including works by Bronzino, Chardin, Frans Hals, Holbein, four Rembrandts and a Watteau. As will be shown Turner was familiar with these works and used them to create some of his own paintings. Most of the Old Masters at Petworth were acquired by the 2nd Earl of Egremont in the middle of the eighteenth-century. This tranche of the collection included works by Gaspar Poussin, Jacob Ruisdael, Salomon Ruisdael, Hobbema, Cuyp, Bassano, Sassoferato, and Canaletto. There was also a collection of works by Van Dyck which were valued highly. Wyndham had a taste for contemporary works by British painters, including Turner himself and Thomas Phillips. Other British artists included James Barry, George Clint, Thomas and William Daniell, Copley Fielding, Fuseli, Gainsborough, John Glover, Francis Grant, Hilton, Hodges, Hoppner, George Jones, C.R. Leslie (a frequent visitor to Petworth), Northcote, Romney, Reynolds, Smirke, Wilkie, and Richard Wilson.
|J.M. W. Turner, An Artist Seated before Sir William Beechey’s Portrait, “Mrs Hasley as Flora,” 1827, Gouache and watercolour on paper, 140 x 193 mm, Tate, London.|
|Rembrandt van Rhyn, Lady with a Fan, 1693, oil on canvas, 49 ½ x 39 ¾ inches, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.|
|Salomon van Ruisdael, River Scene, 1632, oil on panel, 35 x 61.5 cm, NT, Petworth House.|
|Hendrick van Steenwijck the Younger, Perspective View of a Church, 1621, oil on panel, 76 x 116 cm, NT, Petworth House.|
|Sir Joshua Reynolds, Macbeth and the Witches, 1789, oil on canvas, 105 ½ x 143 ¼ inches, N.T. Petworth House.|
Gaspar Poussin, Landscape with a Man Fishing, oil on canvas, 48 x 64 cm, NT, Petworth House.
Turner & Petworth’s Collection
The 3rd Earl of Egremont kept “open house” for artists at Petworth. For example in 1834 Constable tells us on a visit that “the Gainsborough was down” and that he placed it “as it suited me,” and Leslie informs us that the Gainsborough was still down on 5th September, though he misses “a very fine Wilson.” Turner himself studied the Petworth collections assiduously, especially Claude’s Jacob with Laban and his Daughters which influenced Turner’s Festival upon the Opening of the Village of Macon (Sheffield). Like Constable, Turner also studied Gainsborough; the latter’s Rocky, Wooded Landscape with Rustic Lovers is thought to have influenced Turner’s Forest of Bere. Even Sir Joshua Reynold’s art exerted a pull on Turner’s artistic development: the Director’s Macbeth and the Witches inspired the composition of Turner’s Vision of Medea, painted in Rome in 1828. Also, let us not forget the elegant though triste art of Antoine Watteau two of whose paintings were at Petworth. These two paintings lie behind the composition of Turner’s “What You Will” of 1822 and the “Watteau Study by Fresnoy’s Rules” shown at the R.A. in 1831. From the Romantic era, P.J. Loutherbourg’s Avalanche of 1800 had a clear influence on Turner’s Fall of Avalanche in the Grisons, as well as a visit to the Alps in 1802. There are a number of Turner’s own paintings allocated to the Tate Gallery, but in situ at Petworth House such as Narcissus and Echo (R.A. 1804) and Windsor Castle from the Thames (R.A. c.1805).
|J. M.W. Turner, Echo and Narcissus, R.A. 1804, oil on canvas, 34 x 46 inches, N. T., Petworth House.|
|J.M. W. Turner, Self-Portrait, 1799, oil on canvas, Tate Gallery, London.|
|J. M. W. Turner, The Artist & his Admirers, 1827, watercolour and gouache over pencil outlines, Tate, London.|
|J. M. W. Turner, “Watteau Study by Fresnoy’s Rules,” exh 1831, oil on oak, Tate Gallery, London.|
J.M.W. Turner, Vision of Medea, Rome, 1828-9, R.A. 1831, oil on canvas, 68 3/8 x 98 inches, Tate Gallery, London.
J. M. W. Turner, Windsor Castle from the Thames, R.A. c. 1805, oil on canvas, 35 ¾ x 48 inches, N. T., Petworth House.
Waagen with Turner & the Masters at Petworth.
Waagen visited Petworth on his second excursion to the U.K. He tells us that he enjoyed “a very polite reception,” and that he and an unnamed companion were left “undisturbed” to study the pictures room by room. Waagen pays effusive compliments to Sir William Wyndham, Earl of Egremont, calling him “a zealous friend of art and artists,” and the Director names the Netherlandish and English schools as most representative of the collection. In commenting on Turner’s pictures, Waagen says they show the master “in his full power, both in the realistic and ideal sphere.” Waagen’s language here, especially the word “power” should be seen in terms of debates about the romantic imagination of the artist verses the factual, positivistic rendering of scenes. Yet the situation as far as Turner’s painting style was concerned was more complex with him performing extensive researches into Watteau, a painter who was often characterised as delicate and lacking in artistic power. Though it is highly doubtful that Waagen would have linked Turner with Watteau, the question doesn’t arise because the Frenchman’s paintings had left the collection by the 1850s. However Waagen does compare Turner with other painters whose art was in the collection: he likens the beautiful Echo and Narcissus to Gaspar’s style, “solidly executed in a deep warm tone.” AS for the “realistic” side of Turner’s art, this is to seen in Turner’s painting of “cows and water” with “the most glowing evening sun.” He also notes that these pictures possess “a depth and transparency of chiaroscuro, which approaches Rembrandt “combined with a careful execution.”
|J.M. W. Turner, The North Gallery from the North Bay, Owen’s portrait of Mrs Robinson and Flaxman’s St Michael Overcoming Satan, 1827, watercolour and gouache over pencil outlines, Tate, London.|
|J. M. W. Turner, “What You Will,” R.A., 1822, oil on canvas, 19 x 20 ½ inches, Sir Michael Sobell.|
|J.M.W. Turner, The Fall of an Avalanche, 1810, oil on canvas, Tate, London.|
|P.J. de Loutherbourg, Avalanche, c. 1800, oil on canvas, 42 x 62 inches, NT, Petworth House.|
Two Artistic Houses: Baddesley Clinton & Kingston Lacy
Some owners of country houses were actually painters, as in the case of the lady of the manor at the Warwickshire residence of Baddesley Clinton. This was a Tudor “Old Time” house that fell into ruin until it was taken over by Marmion Ferrers and his wife Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen in Victorian times. Rebecca was a keen watercolourist and she set about painting several views of Baddesley and portraits of her family that celebrated the marital home. Now, most of the pictures at the house are by Rebecca’s hand. Such was the acclaim that Rebecca’s paintings brought to Baddesley that the house featured in Country Life in 1897. What is more, Rebecca designed and painted altarpieces and triptychs of all sizes for local Catholic churches; some were based on Renaissance models such as the devout art of Perugino. Then there are the paintings of the artist Alec Cobbe (b. 1945) who illustrates picture hangings and arrivals at Kingston Lacy near Wimborne, Dorset. Cobbe may well have created a new genre with his pictures showing paintings being unpacked, discussions between art historians and members of the National Trust, and pictures being scrutinised on the floor. He even painted a picture of himself sorting through the art collection at Petworth. The history of Kingston Lacy goes back to medieval times, but it really starts in earnest with the Bankes family in the seventeenth-century during the Civil War. One of these, William John Bankes (1786-1855) had a taste for Spanish and Venetian painting, though there are fine examples of Northern European pictures here too. Initially Bankes bought such pictures as Velasquez’s portrait of Cardinal Massimi, but his crowning achievement was to buy (on Byron’s advice) the large Judgement of Solomon by Sebastiano del Piombo from the court of Count Ferdinando Marescalchi. Cobbe paints a re-hanging of this at Kingston Lacy as well as the arrival of pictures by Rubens at the house. Kingston Lacy was eventually bequeathed to the National Trust by Ralph Bankes (1902-81).
|Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen, Self Portrait in the Painting Room at Baddesley Clinton, (Warwickshire), 1885, Oil on canvas, 91.5 x 80 cm, NT, Baddesley Clinton.|
|Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen, View of Baddesley Clinton, oil on card, NT, Baddesley Clinton.|
|View of NT Kingston Lacy, Dorset.|
|Sebastiano del Piombo, The Judgement of Solomon, oil on canvas, 208.3 x 315 cm, National Trust, Kingston Lacy.|
Alec Cobbe, The Hanging of Sebastiano’s Judgement of Solomon, NT, Hatchlands, East Clandon, Guildford.
|Titian, Nicolò Zen, 1560-65, oil on canvas, 125.5 x 97 cm, National Trust, Kingston Lacy.|
|Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Marchesa Maria Serra Pallavicino (?), 1606, oil on canvas, 92 x 57 in, NT, Kingston Lacy.|
|Rubens in situ at Kingston Lacy.|
1) View of Wentwood Woodhouse, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
2) Charles Philips, The Watson- Wentworth and Finch Families, c. 1732, oil on canvas, 100.3 x 124.5 cm, Yale Centre for British Art.
3) Another view of Wentwood.
4) George Stubbs, Whistlejacket, 1762, oil on canvas, 292 x 2464 cm, National Gallery, London.
5) Sir Joshua Reynolds, Count Ugolino & His Children in the Dungeon, 1773, oil on canvas, 52 x 72 cm, N.T Knole.
6) Sir Joshua Reynolds, John Frederick Sackville (1745–1799), 3rd Duke of Dorset, KG, 1769, oil on canvas, 244.5 x 153 cm, NT Knole.
7) View of Knole House.
8) Room with Reynolds portraits at Knole.
9) Sir Joshua Reynolds, Huang Ya Dong 'Wang-Y-Tong,' 1776, oil on canvas, 130 x 107 cm, NT Knole.
10) View of Petworth.
11) Thomas Phillips, George O’Brien Wyndham, third Earl of Egremont, c. 1813-, oil on canvas, 187 x 185 cm, NT, Petworth House.
12) J.M. W. Turner, Self-Portrait, 1799, oil on canvas, Tate Gallery, London.
13) John Hoppner, Sleeping Venus & Cupid, 1806, oil on canvas, 132 x 168 cm, N.T. Petworth House.
14) Rembrandt van Rhyn, Lady with a Fan, 1693, oil on canvas, 49 ½ x 39 ¾ inches, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
15) Hendrick van Steenwijck the Younger, 1621, oil on panel, 76 x 116 cm, NT, Petworth House.
16) Charles Robert Leslie, The Carved Room, Petworth House, c. 1856, oil on board, 352 x 300 mm, Tate Gallery, London.
17) J. M. W. Turner, The Artist & his Admirers, 1827, watercolour and gouache over pencil outlines, Tate, London.
18) J.M. W. Turner, An Artist Seated before Sir William Beechey’s Portrait, “Mrs Hasley as Flora,” 1827, Gouache and watercolour on paper, 140 x 193 mm, Tate, London.
19) J.M. W. Turner, The North Gallery from the North Bay, Owen’s portrait of Mrs Robinson and Flaxman’s St Michael Overcoming Satan, 1827, watercolour and gouache over pencil outlines, Tate, London.
20) The North Gallery today with Flaxman group.
21) J. M. W. Turner, “What You Will,” R.A., 1822, oil on canvas, 19 x 20 ½ inches, Sir Michael Sobell.
22) J. M. W. Turner, “Watteau Study by Fresnoy’s Rules,” exh 1831, oil on oak, Tate Gallery, London.
23) Sir Joshua Reynolds, Macbeth and the Witches, 1789, oil on canvas, 105 ½ x 143 ¼ inches, N.T. Petworth House.
24) J.M.W. Turner, Vision of Medea, Rome, 1828-9, R.A. 1831, oil on canvas, 68 3/8 x 98 inches, Tate Gallery, London.
25) P.J. de Loutherbourg, Avalanche, c. 1800, oil on canvas, 42 x 62 inches, NT, Petworth House.
26) J.M.W. Turner, The Fall of an Avalanche, 1810, oil on canvas, Tate, London.
27) J. M.W. Turner, Echo and Narcissus, R.A. 1804, oil on canvas, 34 x 46 inches, N. T., Petworth House.
28) Gaspar Poussin, Landscape with a Man Fishing, oil on canvas, 48 x 64 cm, NT, Petworth House.
29) J. M. W. Turner, Windsor Castle from the Thames, R.A. c. 1805, oil on canvas, 35 ¾ x 48 inches, N. T., Petworth House.
30) Albert Cuyp, Rider and Herdsman in an Imaginary Landscape with a Ruined Castle and Distant Town, 1650s, oil on canvas, 104.5 x 176 cm, N.T Petworth House.
31) Salomon van Ruisdael, River Scene, 1632, oil on panel, 35 x 61.5 cm, NT, Petworth House.
32) View of Baddesley Clinton
33) Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen, Self Portrait in the Painting Room at Baddesley Clinton, (Warwickshire), 1885, Oil on canvas, 91.5 x 80 cm, NT, Baddesley Clinton.
34) Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen, View of Baddesley Clinton, oil on card, NT, Baddesley Clinton.
35) W.B. Hewett, Bird's-Eye View of Baddesley Clinton from the East, 1974, oil on canvas, 30.5 x 40.5 cm, NT, Baddesley Clinton.
36) Alec Cobbe, The Artist Sorting Pictures with Max and Caroline Egremont at Petworth, 1981, acrylic on board, 20 x 20 cm, NT, National Trust, Hatchlands, Surrey.
37) View of NT Kingston Lacy, Dorset.
38) George Hayter, William John Bankes (1786- 1855), MP, 1836, oil on millboard, 28.5 x 23.5 cm, National Trust, Kingston Lacy.
39) Diego Velasquez, Cardinal Camillo Massimi, oil on canvas, 76 x 61 cm, National Trust, Kingston Lacy.
40) View of Dining Room, KL.
41) Sebastiano del Piombo, The Judgement of Solomon, oil on canvas, 208.3 x 315 cm, National Trust, Kingston Lacy.
42) Alec Cobbe, The Hanging of Sebastiano’s Judgement of Solomon, NT, Hatchlands, East Clandon, Guildford,
43) Titian, Nicolò Zen, 1560-65, oil on canvas, 125.5 x 97 cm, National Trust, Kingston Lacy.
44) Samuel van Hoogstraten, Trompe l’oeil of a Framed Necessary-Board, 1662-63, oil on panel, 54 x 59 cm, NT, Kingston Lacy.
45) Alec Cobbe, Picture Re-Hanging, 1985: Exterior View Showing the Return of a Rubens, 1985, acrylic on board, 25 x 32.5 cm, National Trust, Kingston Lacy.
46) Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Marchesa Maria Serra Pallavicino (?), 1606, oil on canvas, 92 x 57 in, NT, Kingston Lacy.
47) Rubens in situ at Kingston Lacy.
48) Alec Cobbe, The Appraisal of the Trial Hang of the Paintings in the Saloon at Kingston Lacy (Bobby Gore, Sir Brinsley Ford, Professor Michael Jaffé, Tom Helme, Dudley Dodd and Tony Mitchell), 1985, acrylic on board, 57 x 35.5 cm, NT, Kingston Lacy.
 Quoted in Brewer, 290.
 Mandler, 86.
 The next two sections owe much to the catalogue of the Turner at Petworth exhibition at the Tate in 1989, curated by Martin Butlin, Mollie Luther and Ian Warrell. There is also much useful information on Turner’s copying of other artists in the Turner and the Masters exhibition catalogue to the brilliant Tate show of 2010.
 David Solkin and Philippa Simpson (Turner and the Masters, p. 159) theorise that Turner’s “..attempt to emulate a painter so unlike himself underlines the risks he was prepared to run in order to maximise his range, and thus, in protean fashion, to assume as many different artistic guises as possible.”
 Turner & the Masters, no. 53.
 From Tate website: “this painting is a tribute to the eighteenth-century French painter, Antoine Watteau. Turner exhibited it in 1831, as the companion piece to Lucy, Countess of Carlisle… shown on the far left. It illustrates a colouristic principle of the theorist CA du Fresnoy, that white ‘may bear an object back, or bring it near’. Watteau appears in the centre, surrounded by admirers and examples of his work which Turner knew, including Les Plaisirs du Bal (the large painting on the left, now in Dulwich College Gallery) and La Lorgneuse (‘The Flirt’, the smaller framed picture) owned by his friend, the poet Samuel Rogers. Turner and the Masters, no. 64.
 Acq by William Bankes on the advice of Byron, Genius of Venice no. 97.
 It was painted by Rubens, as a gift - (D[ono] D)- on one of his visits to Genoa. It was acquired by William Bankes (1786–1855) in 1840, as of the Marchesa Isabella Grimaldi. But that identity would appear, however, to have been conferred upon it by the Grimaldi family, which had latterly owned it. When ﬁrst referred to, in Ratti’s guide to Genoa of 1780, the sitter was anonymous.. New research into the heraldic motifs of the curtain drawn up above this sitter’s head has identiﬁed her as Maria Serra, the wife of Niccolò Pallavicino, banker and host to Rubens’s employer, Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga of Mantua, whose hospitality in 1606 included a sumptuous banquet and ball, at which she probably wore the dress in which she is portrayed.